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calendar17 May 2017

Author: Joseph Allison

Offline and shut out

Offline and shut out

These days, it’s almost impossible to ignore the internet’s presence.

You’re using the internet to read this sentence, right now.

This sentence is also on the internet.

I don’t want to make you feel too weird about it but… HELLO THERE!

For many, it’s the first thing you look at when you wake up and the last thing you see before you go to bed. Over 41.8 million adults in the UK now use the internet every day. For better or worse, it affects how we see the world. It lets us stay connected to our friends and family, it lets us communicate our thoughts, spread jokes and share our photos. For many of us, it’s the only way we learn about the news and so many other things.

But, there are a lot of people, here in the UK, who can’t get online. More than a fifth of CAP clients have no connection to the internet whatsoever. There are 5.2 million households in the UK who are not using the web and many more whose internet is limited, and it’s here where you can find some really big problems for people struggling with debt. Such a lot of things like price comparison sites, energy deals, banking, jobsites or Universal Credit applications are all online. It can mean many people find themselves shut out of things that could make a difference to their situation.

One way around this problem is to use your local library for internet access. However, it can be complicated. A lot of people aren’t comfortable entering their private information into a public computer. One lady CAP is helping, Rebecca, found the time limits on the library computers and the limited numbers of free computers made it difficult to find work. Volunteers from her CAP Debt Centre have offered her use of their internet, but even though this helped the problem, she was uncomfortable about being seen as taking advantage.

Martine was a CAP client unfamiliar with computers and suffered with severe arthritis, making filling out the online application for Universal Credit a struggle. A volunteer from the local CAP Debt Centre volunteered to help her use a computer at the Jobcentre. It took a couple of trips to collect all the paperwork needed from her home. At this time, she had no income and without this support she wouldn’t have been able to get help from the Jobcentre. It’s easy to see how missing a simple thing like the internet can cause huge problems further along.

Do you know anyone who struggles with these issues? Do you live in an internet black hole? Is there anything you or your church can do to lend a hand?

Organisations and companies need to do more too. Keep Me Posted UK is campaigning for more fairness for those without internet use and for people to be given more choice in how firms maintain contact with them. Certainly, in this growing digital world, it’s an issue that’s not going away any time soon.

Click here to read the full report from CAP.

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